Bassist Robert Trujillo recently revealed the promise he made in front of a photo of Cliff Burton. It took place just before joining Metallica. Trujillo went on to add that the late bassist was “in a lot of ways a better musician” than James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, and Kirk Hammett.
Robert Trujillo opens up on Cliff Burton
February 10 would have marked the late Cliff Burton’s 61st birthday. Having entered the picture in late 1982, Cliff would become a major part of Metallica’s legacy. His powerful presence and complex bass work still resonate throughout the band’s first three albums. Other members of Metallica as well as their peers who knew Cliff personally stressed on several occasions how the bassist, whose life was tragically lost in the 1986 bus accident, was not just the most knowledgeable musician in the band, but also served as an important mentor figure for Hetfield, Ulrich, and Hammett.
Nowadays, Cliff’s position is filled by Robert Trujillo, who replaced Jason Newsted in 2003. In an excerpt from Joel McIver’s book, “To Live Is To Die: The Life and Death of Metallica’s Cliff Burton” recently published by Bass Player, Trujillo looked back on Cliff Burton’s legacy:
“Cliff was absolutely amazing for Metallica. His ideas, his presence, and where he was taking the bass and taking metal, were so special. And his stage presence – he was such a physical player. He played what he felt, and that was the bottom line. His approach was, ‘I’m gonna play what I feel, and if you don’t like it, screw you!'”
Well aware of the late musician’s unique talent and importance for Metallica’s original identity, Trujillo recalls making a promise to Burton before he officially joined the band:
“When I auditioned for Metallica in 2002, I was playing in Ozzy Osbourne’s band with one of Cliff’s best friends, Mike Bordin of Faith No More.
“I was staying at Mike’s house in San Francisco and in the guest room at Mike’s house, where I would be practising Metallica’s music, there is a big photo of Cliff – and at a random moment at two in the morning, I looked up and saw that photo.
“I actually spoke to the photo. I said, ‘Cliff, I won’t let you down, I promise. I’ll give it my best shot.’ So in a weird way I feel connected to Cliff. I feel like I know him.”
Trujillo further recalled the mindset with which he approached learning Cliff’s bass lines, Trujillo said:
“When I learned ‘The Call of Ktulu’, I really directed Cliff’s bass parts and took a lot of pride in doing that. I really wanted to know it, and feel it, and get it into my soul, so I spent time with it.”
Trujillo added how it’s not just Cliff Burton’s bass work that made the musician unique. He said:
“No disrespect to my brothers in Metallica, but Cliff was older than the other guys, and in a lot of ways a better musician. He had a very broad creative skill set – a musician’s musician, in a lot of ways.
“He could play the piano and he knew classical music, as well as being a fan of Lynyrd Skynyrd. He used to ask Kirk to show him Lynyrd Skynyrd guitar solos so he could play them on bass, and not many bass players were doing that back then. I thought that was so cool. Cliff was a force on a lot of different levels.”